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March 09, 2012

‘John Carter’: Creating Woola, lizard-dog Lassie of Mars

Posted in: Movies

Never work with children or animals, the Hollywood adage goes, because they steal every scene. A fantastical addendum for the Martian action-adventure epic “John Carter” might be: Never work with a 10-legged, giant lizard dog either. Woola, the homely, Martian canine creature called a Calot in director Andrew Stanton’s new Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, was little-seen in the promotion or marketing for the film, but has emerged as an early fan favorite.

“It’s sort a boy and his dog,” Stanton said, explaining Woola’s appeal. “Who wouldn’t want a dog that could run like the Roadrunner in the Warner Bros. cartoons and go that fast?”

A kind of Barsoomian man’s best friend, Woola quickly cottons to Taylor Kitsch’s flinty Confederate Civil War veteran, following him loyally across the Red Planet’s sandy dunes. Like his master, Woola travels with unearthly speed. The trick for Stanton and his team was calibrating the precise degree of ugly-cuteness for the creature, who is central to the Burroughs books.

The photo gallery above includes an early attempt at the Martian answer to Lassie in a piece of concept art, as well as stills from some of Woola’s finer moments in the film. Really, nothing makes you say awwww like three grinning rows of teeth.

— Rebecca Keegan

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